The title Cops and Friends of Cops references the raucous “cops only” night held monthly at the tumbledown St. Louis bar in Ron Klier's suspenseful drama. While Dom (Paul Vincent O'Connor) prepares the bar for the night's guests, he is joined by the shabby-looking Paul (Johnny Clark), who insists on staying, in spite of Dom's repeated warnings that “the place is slammed with cops” and his prediction that things will “turn rowdy.” After Emmett (Andrew Hawkes), plus Roosevelt (Rolando Boyce) and his soon-to-be-retired partner Sal (Gareth Williams), clamor in, the mood turns deeply malevolent — fast. Emmett's inexplicable browbeating of Paul turns increasingly ugly and confrontational, while Sal's seemingly endless assortment of “all in good fun” racist jokes slowly begin to anger his young African-American partner. This initial ratcheting-up of tension, however, is nothing compared with what happens after a gun is suddenly produced and the reason for Paul's visit is revealed. What follows is anything but predictable. Klier's rough-hewn characters are completely convincing, and the script, in addition to forcefully probing issues of morality, bigotry, loss and redemption, takes hold and allows little in the way of relief, as does Klier's highly charged, violent staging. The ensemble work here is first-rate, while Danny Cistone nails his meticulously crafted bar mock-up, complete with pay phone and old-timey jukebox.

Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Starts: April 26. Continues through June 29, 2013

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